Memo to Mr. President
Mr. President, I salute you and congratulate you on your victory at the recently concluded elections with a whopping margin of almost four million votes. That is landslide or moon slide as some people would jocularly add. We are not oblivious that the leading opposition candidate is poised to challenge your victory in court but I should not worry about that as word out there is that with some surprise victories recorded in some units of prime opposition candidate; vice versa and the fact that as it is now trending rigging was not monopolized by one particular party, I should simply continue in the sure expectation that all is well. What is more for believers in God; it is God that gives power as He wills. Now that this is settled it is time to get down to business demonstrating that you have learnt some lessons from the not so commendable aspects of your first tenure.
We expect you Mr. President to be ready with your cabinet which should be the first order of business to be considered by the 9th Session of the National Assembly. Obviously the expectation is that some of the really performing Ministers will be retained. But it is time to inject some fresh blood to give your administration a shot in the arm. The expectation is that this time the Cabinet would be more inclusive. With a mixture of youth and women and every effort made for fit as portfolios are assigned to aim at having a square peg in a square hole even if we are prepared to admit that a Minister is really expected to offer leadership.
Mr. President it is time to really prioritise peace in the Land to address the lingering insecurity. The wanton loss of life has gone on for too long and my recommendation is that it is time to declare a state of emergency at particular zones which have proven over the years to be flash points. The Boko Haram insurrection even if it is correct to admit has been downgraded but the fact remains that this menace remains a present danger as occasionally reports filter out of some dare devilry on the part of these insurgents. A situation whereby the convoy of a State Governor could be targeted demonstrated unacceptable effrontery on the part of the insurgents and every attempt must be made to demobilise the group. And to do this we must be humble to go to any country that has proven capability that we require to ask for their assistance. The farmers/herders problem must be tackled frontally. Questions have been asked why none of the perpetrators of these dastardly acts have been successfully prosecuted for its known deterrent effect. This particular development has left your administration open to accusation of bias in its efforts to find a solution.
Every effort must be made to respect the independence of the other tiers of government; the Legislature and the Judiciary to continue to deepen our democracy. It is important that some bridges are constructed for harmonious relationship which would facilitate smooth governance instead of the gridlock that characterised relationship during the immediate past 8th Assembly. Let us consider certain key aspects of governance as we discuss, say the annual budget. What explained some of the delays which was experienced with the approval and successful implementation of the budget was the sore relationship that prevailed between the Executive and Legislature.
These delays were most certainly counterproductive and impeded the desire of your administration to make good progress with the achievement of some of your set goals. Every effort should be made to establish a budget office at the National Assembly that is able to liaise and collaborate with the Budget Office of the Federation as progress is made with the preparation of the budget to ensure that the legislature is carried along so that at the end, the budget approval process would be seamless. There is no reason why we cannot return to a synchronised budget cycle which is fully aligned with the calendar year. Mr. President every effort must be made to ensure that the budget process is made effective this time around for therein lies the key to the attainment of rapid growth and development of the economy which should facilitate the creation of ample job opportunities to bring succor to the teaming mass of the unemployed youths in the country and decrease the social tension.
Mr. President there was talk on the campaign trail that NNPC would be privatised as the received wisdom out there is that there is the need for greater transparency with regard to the operations of the behemoth. There is the need to get the refineries in the country working again to impact on the volume of importation of Petroleum Motor Spirit which has placed some stress on the dollar inflow into the country as quite a substantial amount is spent on this importation particularly now that NNPC has a monopoly of these importations. Every effort should be made to get the refineries working again including the injection of private capital which might be reluctant to engage under a price control environment. Mr. President my take is that it is time to bite the bullet to attempt deregulation of the oil market. We lost an opportunity the last time when you increased the pump price from 87 to 145.
That was time to have deregulated the market to end the regime of subsidy which is most certainly no longer sustainable as there is felt pressure to increase budgetary allocations to the social sectors of Education, health, water and power to positively impact the quality of life of the masses. We do not know what has been the stumbling block in the enactment of the Petroleum Industry Bill which as records have it was last reviewed in 1959. It would be good if an attempt is made to leverage on the Act to upgrade aspects of sector specific operating environment in the country to better align it with best practices to continue to underwrite the competitiveness of the sector. It is obvious that the quoted volume of daily consumption of PMS in the country is largely due to product smuggling across the borders to neighbouring countries as advantage is taken of the existing price arbitrage; one more good reason to deregulate the sector.
Mr. President, the Central Bank enjoys instrument autonomy in its operations. This has the implications that no one must be seen to openly dictate to the Governor. The buck stops at your table Mr. President and therefore you must insist to be carried along as events unfold. But you must be guided not to speak out of turn to give the impression to the public that you decide for the Governor. Such a posture sends the wrong signal and undermines the independence which the Central Bank must have and with it the attractiveness of our country as an investment destination. Mr. President recently a spurious fake message was trending to the effect that the incumbent Governor had been asked to proceed on pre disengagement leave pending the appointment of another Governor as the tenure of the incumbent expires on June 3, 2019. That was going to be a strange development especially as no existing problems with the operations of the Bank had been advertised.
Mr. President Governor Emefiele has done really well to achieve the stability we are currently enjoying. It is advisable if this stability is sustained which is not guaranteed if any other person is appointed into that position. The new appointee will inevitably come with his own experimentation which is bound to upset the apple cart to present some fresh problems which the Bank will again begin to struggle to cope with. We encountered such experience in this dispensation which accounted for the exchange rate deteriorating from about 158 to the current levels of 302 and 306 with all the uncertainties that followed. We must avoid creating fires which we now have to struggle to put out.
Similarly effort must be made to sustain the gains which we have achieved in certain areas of fiscal operations, the quantum increase in revenue accruing from Federal Inland Revenue Services Operation, Customs and Excise, JAMB and of course Agriculture which has now resulted in Nigeria taking over from Egypt as the country with the highest rice production capacity in Africa. Mr. President we must keep hope alive but request our compatriots to collectively determine to make their contribution to facilitating the kind of economy we would all wish to have. Mr. President we wish you the best of luck even as we pray for robust health and God’s guidance.
Chizea writes from Lagos
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